Free Trade: Dealing in Cultural Futures
It is, perhaps, fortunate that the debate over free trade has brought into full view the homely and cacaphonous nature of both the Canadian and American varieties of nationalistic rhetoric. Rarely has an issue allowed us the opportunity to so fully appreciate the stark reality of the nationalism that has over the years worked, often beyond public preview, to shape and to generally constrain reciprocal public discourse. It is unfortunate, however, that the debate continues to be reported in isolated halves by two separate, monophonic North American voices. The American press serves up the pro-American view, whereas the Canadian press coverage of its national debate barely penetrates the American border. The presumed importance of free trade for the economic survival of both countries brought forth the old jingoistic skeletons, each regaled in its full dress of cultural symbology. The participants include pro-culturalists, proponents of cultural sovereignty, Canadian free-traders, anti-nationalists, and latterday apologists for American manifest destiny. Nationalistic rhetoric in the heat of the free-trade debate abandons diplomatic facades. Most of the language provides a stark contrast to the customary platitudes and cliches of "good neighbors," "world's largest trading partners," the "special relationship," and the "world's longest undefended border." The evolving discourse has become an ongoing marathon debate that includes entreaties, threats, apologies and self-fulfilling financial and cultural analyses.